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New count of U.S. protests shows more than 300 separate rallies against gun violence in Feb.

- March 30, 2018

This is the 14th installment in a monthly series reporting on political crowds in the United States. Each month, the Crowd Counting Consortium will post updates about trends and patterns from the previous month. For our counting methods, please see our first post in the series. You can find the rest of the posts here

For February, we tallied 1,117 protests, demonstrations, strikes, marches, sit-ins and rallies in the United States, with at least one in every state and the District. Our conservative guess is that between 158,470 and 163,627 people showed up at these political gatherings, although it is likely there were more participants. Because mainstream media often neglect to report nonviolent actions — especially small ones — we probably did not record every event that took place. For 31 percent of the events we listed this month, we lacked an estimate of the size of the crowd.

Nevertheless, we think our tally gives us a useful pool of information to better understand political mobilization in the United States — particularly, how reports of crowds change from month to month.

1. Demonstrations against gun violence

Protests associated with the Parkland, Fla., school shooting — often organized by local students, Mothers Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, or others — made up the largest number of events. We counted more than 300 events related to gun control, most after the Feb. 14 shooting. The largest were in Tallahassee, but others — in Boca Raton, Coral Springs, Fort Lauderdale and Parkland — each brought out more than a thousand people. This was a prelude to the  March for Our Lives and its kin in subsequent weeks, which we will report on next month.

2. February’s other large protests

We noted other protests in February with several thousand participants. Workers’ rights were a major theme, drawing more than 12,000 participants in Charleston, W.Va., where on Feb. 17, state employees demanded greater protections. This was followed by another event in West Virginia’s capital on Feb. 22, where 5,000 people protested for improved working conditions for teachers. On Feb. 26, thousands returned to make their voices heard. And on Feb. 27, about 10,000 people rallied for workers’ rights in New York City.

We also saw at least 100 protests related to immigration. Most were rallies to support the Dream Act and to protect DACA recipients. However, a sizable proportion also protested against Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids, detentions and the deportation of particular immigrants.

The largest demonstration that did not oppose President Trump or his policies came when Louisiana Right to Life and related groups held a march from Pineville to Alexandria, drawing about 5,600 participants.

3. Protests for and against Trump

The share of protests against the Trump administration increased slightly in February. Whereas such events represented roughly 84.1 percent of crowds in January, we estimate that 86.6 percent of the events we recorded in February were opposing Trump’s policies. Of that figure, about 55.9 percent were explicitly anti-Trump, while 30.6 percent took stances on issues that contradicted that of the president.

February also saw a decline in events supporting Trump. Compared with January’s 11.3 percent of events in support of Trump, about 5.3 percent of the events we recorded were rallies supporting the president and his policies, either directly or indirectly.

The final 8.1 percent of the crowds were involved in actions directed at other politicians or about issues that were neither pro- nor anti-Trump. We found a broad range of such topics, consistent with the trends from previous months.

How many people were arrested and/or injured in political crowds?

We counted five reported injuries in February. At about 1,103 events (98.7 percent), no arrests were made. This was a nearly identical percentage of arrest-free protests as in January (98.8 percent). In terms of numbers of people arrested, the numbers decreased, from 165 arrests in January to 121 in February, with at least 100 (82.6 percent) of those January arrests coming in six cases of nonviolent civil disobedience.

As in January, many of those arrests took place at a single protest at the U.S. Capitol. Forty arrests included a number of Catholic clergy and laypeople calling for passage of a clean Dream Act. They were charged with “crowding, obstructing or incommoding.” A group of 10 disability-rights activists faced similar charges after they were arrested Feb. 13 for disrupting a House Rules Committee meeting on a bill that would limit legal options for those filing complaints under the American With Disabilities Act.

Overall, February saw less protest than January, which included the massive Women’s March on Jan. 20. February also featured a slight decrease in numbers from those in February 2017, although there were more protests this February than in February 2017.

But that’s a temporary dip. From what we’ve counted so far, March 2018 stands to be one of the busiest months of protest since Trump’s election.

You can download the data here. We’ll release the data for March soon. In the meantime, we are still counting. Click here to submit information about a protest, and click here to volunteer to help us count. 

Jeremy Pressman is an associate professor of political science and director of Middle East Studies at the University of Connecticut. Find him on Twitter @djpressman.